May 21, 2020

USEA Events A-Z: Woodside Horse Trials

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
USEA/Jessica Duffy photo

The Woodside Horse Trials are held at the Horse Park at Woodside in Woodside, California (Area VI) in May, August, and October of each year. The event offers Introductory through Advanced levels at their spring event, Intro through Intermediate and USEA Future Event Horse Classes at their summer event, and Intro through Advanced and CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI4*-S levels at their fall event.

Robert E. Smith incorporated the Combined Training Equestrian Team Alliance (CTETA) in 1976 with the goal of establishing and providing equestrian educational opportunities in the Woodside, California area. In 1982, CTETA secured a lease on a 272-acre piece of property owned by Stanford University and known locally as Guernsey Field and began to host a wide range of equestrian activities for a number of different disciplines including eventing, hunter/jumpers, polo, driving, and reining.

In March of 2005, CTETA obtained permits from the San Mateo County Planning Commission that allowed the park to permanently stable up to 100 horses, increased temporary stabling capacity to 430 horses during events, and hold sanctioned events with up to 800 competitors. Later that same year, CTETA changed its name to the Horse Park at Woodside.

Kim Miller Photo.

At the Horse Park at Woodside’s first USEA recognized competition in May of 2005, more than 325 riders competed at Beginner Novice through Intermediate levels. Over the years, the Woodside Horse Trials have expanded their offering to include Intro and Advanced levels and international CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI4*-S divisions. The Woodside Horse Trials have also hosted their unique Preliminary Challenge at their spring event since 2010 and in 2019 added the Modified-Training Challenge to their summer event.

The Preliminary and Modified-Training Challenges were designed by Organizer Robert Kellerhouse and his team to highlight riders competing at the level. Riders complete dressage in front of a panel of two judges on Friday, tackle a tough cross-country course on Saturday morning before show jumping under the lights in front of the crowd on Sunday night. In the Preliminary Challenge, $15,000 in prize money is up for grabs between the Horse and Rider divisions.

“The Preliminary and Modified-Training Challenges really bring a fun aspect to the event,” said Ashlyn Dorsey of Kellerhouse Presents. “Woodside brings a lot of attention to the lower levels – to the amateurs, to the young horses – which I think is really cool. Everyone comes to the parties for the challenges and I think it makes it a different kind of show where you’re not just watching the Advanced division.”

2019 Preliminary Challenge winners Rebecca Braitling and Meg Pellegrini. Sherry Stewart Photo.

The Horse Park at Woodside has added steadily to its facility amenities over its nearly 40-year history. Now, the facility has nine arenas that encompass more than four acres and include a Grand Prix arena with state-of-the-art geotextile footing, more than 240 temporary stalls, RV pads with water and electrical hookups, permanent washracks, a show office with porch seating, and a grassy vendor and event viewing area for spectators. Apart from being a competition venue for eventing and other equestrian sports, riders can purchase park memberships to come make use of the facilities and there are several trainers who work out of the Horse Park at Woodside with clients boarding on site.

“What’s kind of cool about the facility is that it all centers around the Grand Prix ring,” shared Dorsey. “A handful of the barns are on top of the arena, so you can be at your barn and you’re still overlooking the event. For our Preliminary and Modified-Training Challenges, we use the arena for show jumping in the evening – they run the cross-country in the morning and then they do the show jumping at night. We have the lights on and the hospitality tent is on one side and the barns are on the other so everyone gathers around the ring for that.”

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The cross-country courses at the Horse Park at Woodside range from Intro to Advanced with courses for FEI two-, three-, and four-star levels. Bert Wood designs the courses for Intro through CCI2*-S and Ian Stark designs the CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S, assisted by course builders Terry Hilst, David Cathcart, and Louis Blankenship. Situated on rolling terrain in an open field, the cross-country course at Woodside is great for spectating. “Since it’s all in one area it gives it a good flow,” said Dorsey. “You go in and out of the woods a little bit and you have good rolling hills. The good part about it is that we have one spectating area from which you can see everything . . . The courses have good flow to them – you’re able to get in a good gallop right from the get-go. Ian and Bert use the terrain to their advantage so there’s a lot of diversity in the cross-country course.”

“The Woodside Horse Trials always have a lot of atmosphere – it’s one of the most spectated events that we put on and so if you have a young horse, or even a super-experienced horse, you can have a great showing experience. The Grand Prix ring has a lot of atmosphere to it and there’s always stuff going on. The course is very testing so if you really want to know if you’re at the level it’s a great course to run over.”

The USEA is profiling the history behind all USEA recognized events in the USEA Events A­-Z series.

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